AS a student nurse in the ’80s sexism was alive and well and a lot more blatant than it is today. Despite the fact it seriously annoyed me, I often ignored it believing most men thought it a bit of fun rather than insulting.
One of the most common examples was when I was asked ‘What do you do?’. I’d reply: ‘I’m a student nurse.’ Nine times out of 10 the boys would smirk and say: ‘Ah so you are good at making beds’. It was definitely not their best chat-up line. However, in truth, with no innuendo involved, I am in fact superb at making beds.
Such were the memories that came to me yesterday as I put a new sheet on my bed, with the most perfect of hospital bed corners. I couldn’t help but admire it and even contemplated calling in my children to witness its beauty, but alas they are completely ignorant as to what a hospital corner is.
Looking at my perfect bed, I remembered the hundreds I’d made as a young nurse. Each morning two students were tasked with the making of the wards’ 42 beds. It was a chore I enjoyed as despite the time pressure we had time to chat to patients and each other.
I remembered one morning in particular. We were motoring well, reaching the mid-way point in reasonable time. As we chatted in a six-bed ward, a deep roar silenced us. Surely not the ward sister? Another roar followed and this time my name was clearly part of it.
“Yikes, that’s me she’s shouting for,” I said. Not sure how I could be in trouble so early in the day, I went to face the music, with the collective best wishes of the patients following me out the door.
“You called me, Sister?” I asked, in an Oscar-winning performance of one hiding fear. Her mouth opened and closed, but now I was in front of her she seemed to have trouble finding words. Instead, she caught my arm and marched me into one of the rooms I’d already made the beds in.
“Look,” she spluttered, pointing to the six beds which I couldn’t help but notice were beautifully made, white sheets turned down, white pillows perched on top. Unfortunately, I also noted each bed sheet appeared to be stained with an enormous blue inky stain, as were some of the pillows and blankets.
Before I’d time to process the sight, we were on the move again, into the next ward. More inky stains.
“Look,” she screeched, pointing to my hip pocket. I followed her gaze to my starched white uniform pocket where a dark blue ink stain was spreading north and east. It would appear my blue ink pen had had enough of life and exploded. As I’d been happily making the perfect hospital corners, the inky mess had transferred onto everything I’d touched.
“I’m so sorry, Sister,” I said, placing a hand to my chest to emphasise my sorrow.
Her eyebrows shot skyward.
Lowering my eyes, I noted a fresh inky hand print on my chest.
For a nanosecond, I was overcome by the comedy of the moment, but Queen Victoria stood before me and she was definitely ‘not amused’.
I decided it best to make a speedy exit to change my uniform as there was a look close to murder in her eyes, and to stay away long enough to ensure all affected beds had been remade.
Needless to say, our ward was a little short on laundry for the rest of that day.
I did however secure a good reference when I was leaving. Hopefully I did something right, or perhaps she was just glad to be rid of me.
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